In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re happy to bring our Women in Furniture Series, spotlighting accomplished women shaping the furniture industry. While strides have been made towards gender diversity, the industry lags behind others. At 3D Cloud™, we stand behind and empower outstanding women propelling the industry forward. So, grab your favorite brew, take a seat, and delve into the inspiring journey of —

Sarah Martens.

Sarah Martens is currently the Division Merchandising Manager at Nebraska Furniture Mart. She brings experience from previous roles at Hayneedle, Macy’s, and VonMaur. In this article, she shares her career journey and insights into the furniture industry.

We can start with the steps you took to become DMM at Nebraska Furniture Mart. Can you tell us about that?

Sarah: My path to becoming a Division Merchandising Manager (DMM) at NFM began with an educational foundation. I earned degrees in Merchandising and Marketing from The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. All these years later, I am doing EXACTLY what I studied for and sought out to do!

I started at NFM 4 years ago. I came to NFM as a buyer for the first 14 months and then took over the role of DMM. As a DMM, I have the privilege of leading a team of eight individuals, comprising six talented Furniture Buyers as well as two Promotional Coordinators. Aside from leading my team, I do many things on behalf of the Furniture Family as a whole, ranging from collaboration on strategic decisions, driving marketing and promotional activities, and leading various cross-functional initiatives.

Before NFM, I contributed to the success of Hayneedle.com, which later evolved into Jet.com and eventually merged with Walmart.com. During my 8 1/2 years there, I specialized in Buying furniture and worked on the Product Development team.  I also have six years of Apparel Buying experience from Stage Stores, Macy’s, and VonMaur. Each role has contributed to my growth, giving me a holistic understanding of the retail landscape. It has provided me with exposure to various business models, from e-commerce to brick-and-mortar establishments and from small-scale operations to the largest company in the world.

What advice would you give to younger women considering a career in the furniture industry today?  

SM: Find a role within an organization where you like and respect the leadership. It doesn’t matter what you are doing; get your foot in the door, strive to be the best in your role, and doors will open up for you. Development is self-owned, and it’s up to you to make it known what you aspire to do. Take advantage and create development opportunities for yourself. Be curious, and don’t stop at the first roadblock.

Development is self-owned, and it’s up to you to make it known what you aspire to do.” – Sarah Martens, DMM at Nebraska Furniture Mart

Do you have a mentor? If yes, how has that relationship supported your journey? 

SM: Shane Pohlman, my current boss and the Director of Furniture, has supported me immensely over the past four years at NFM. He saw something in me that I might not have necessarily seen in myself and invited me along for the journey to be his right hand. I admire the way he conducts business and how he genuinely cares about each and every person on his team.  He is empathetic, a great listener, a problem solver, and a sounding board.  He is tough but fair and I aspire to be like him in many aspects. He always has my back, and he has given me support and freedom to pursue projects that I am interested in, which has helped me carve out my role as the DMM of Furniture.

What values are most important to you as a leader? 

SM: Kindness and Integrity. I firmly believe you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and I always strive to approach interactions with empathy and respect. The furniture industry is smaller than you might imagine and it’s important to act with kindness and integrity always because you never know when you are going to cross paths with someone again. I’ve had the privilege of developing connections that span multiple companies, and it’s important to be professional in your interactions and maintain positive relationships. One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Warren Buffett, encapsulates this belief:

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett

What keeps you grounded and energized? 

SM: If you’ve ever tried to chase a toddler around a sporting event, you’ll understand why I say it’s my children! My husband and I started the parenting gig a bit later in life, and caring for two tiny humans serves as a constant reminder of what truly matters. Witnessing the world through a child’s eyes is magical, and their contagious belly laughs over the simplest things are like daily doses of joy that keep me going.

Sure, there are moments when I sneak off on a work trip and secretly revel in the blissful peace and quiet of a hotel room with no one to clean up after but myself. But despite meltdowns and messes, I adore my little ones, and they sure know how to keep me on my toes!

 

In conclusion, Sarah Martens’ journey serves as a beacon of inspiration for women navigating the furniture industry. Her story underscores the importance of resilience, seizing opportunities, and fostering meaningful connections.

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your career journey with us.

Industry group participation

AHFA Logo
Home Furnishings Association
National Kitchen and Bath Association
NADRA
City of Hope

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